21 Jul 2008

McCain is Another Eisenhower, Just Lacking the Grin

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The New York Times explains how John McCain proceeded to avenge his defeat in the 2000 Republic presidential primaries by George W. Bush by turning himself into a power in the Senate via “swing-voting,” i.e. betraying the Republican leadership and the Bush Administration and voting with democrats like Ted Kennedy.

Previously a marginal player better known for heckling the Senate than for influencing it, Mr. McCain returned from the 2000 campaign with a new national reputation and a new political sophistication.

Over the next eight years, he mastered the art of political triangulation — variously teaming up with Mr. Lott against the president or the new Republican leaders, with Democrats against Republicans, and with the president against the Democrats — to become perhaps the chamber’s most influential member. …

John McCain prior to 2000 would not be known for his legislative skills or achievements,” said John Weaver, a former McCain adviser. “He voted with his party, and people ran to him on national security. But being the swing guy after 2000, he knew his turf was valuable, and he could use it to achieve things.”

He learned how to play the game, said Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. “He is a lot more savvy than a lot of people realize — targeted, tactical, strategic — and sometimes only he knows what his real objective is,” Mr. Nelson said. …

John Zogby, a pollster Mr. McCain often consults, told him that the race had inverted his political profile: Democrats and independents liked him more than Republicans did. But he was also one of the most popular politicians in the country, and his biography as a war hero had kept a solid floor under his conservative support.

“It suggested that he would be able to finesse conservatives,” Mr. Zogby recalled in an interview. He told Mr. McCain that continuing to buck his party would be “very astute.” (The 2008 primary was a close call, but Mr. Zogby argues that he was vindicated: Mr. McCain won.)

Mr. McCain needed little encouragement. He still smoldered over what he considered the dirty 2000 primary, especially the slander campaign he believed had been waged against him. He had been liberated from party loyalty, Mr. Graham said.

“There was almost a sense of freedom,” Mr. Graham said. “It reinforced his impulse: I am going to be me.”

“Me,” in McCain’s case being a self-aggrandizing Machiavellian without a shred of conservative principle.

Let’s see: a military man, unintellectual, ruthlessly selfish and pragmatic, not above siding with liberal democrats in order to gain personal advantage. A “Me, Too, Only a Little Less” Republican. Yes, exactly, he’s Dwight Eisenhower all over again, just lacking the charm and the infectious grin.

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